University of California Cancer Consortium Takes on California’s $14 Billion Killer

Janet Napolitano talks at a press conference at UCSF's Mission Bay
University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the formation of a UC Cancer Consortium to include five of the nation’s leading academic cancer centers during a press conference in Genentech Hall at Mission Bay. Photo by Susan Merrell

The University of California’s five academic cancer centers, home to some of the world’s leading scientists and physicians, have formed a consortium to better address California’s most pressing cancer-related problems and opportunities, UC President Janet Napolitano and Dr. John Stobo, executive vice president of UC Health, announced today.

Despite steady declines in cancer rates over the past 20 years, cancer is soon expected to overtake heart disease as California’s leading cause of death. This year alone, 176,000 state residents will be diagnosed with cancer and nearly 60,000 will die from it. The estimated cost burden of cancer in California is $14 billion annually.

The alliance of the UC centers, which all hold the highest designation possible from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, reflects a new model for cancer research and treatment that calls for the best minds to work together, regardless of where they are, to tackle cancer’s many problems.

Among the projects the Consortium will undertake are precision medicine, clinical trials, population health science, best practices in harnessing big data to improve health, and political engagement for public benefit. A report that outlines the state of cancer in California and how the Consortium is uniquely suited to catalyze the state’s efforts to improve cancer outcomes may be accessed here: http://cancer.ucsf.edu/consortium.

“The University of California – and the people of California – are privileged to have at UC physicians and scientists who are among the very best at what they do: care for patients and conduct research that leads to discovery and new knowledge that benefits us all,” said Napolitano. “The formation of the UC Cancer Consortium will help leverage this institutional strength.”

The centers that make up the consortium are the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UC Irvine Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The past decade has seen unprecedented progress in cancer research and treatment. But with its advances in collecting and analyzing large data and the new ability to look deeply inside the disease’s biology, this era has brought the cancer community to a crossroads. Advances will now come only through coordinated efforts among the most skilled people and institutions.

“The UC Cancer Consortium is uniquely placed to take on California’s most difficult issues related to battling this insidious disease,” said UC Health’s Stobo. “Our research mission and high level of skill also mean that our centers often care for patients with rare cancers who cannot be treated in other hospitals that may lack the expertise or access to clinical trials using the latest experimental drugs.”

Individually, each of the UC cancer centers are hubs of expertise and innovation, and also partner with industry to advance technology, protocols and medicines that become available to practitioners and patients around the world. Their collective expertise and capabilities will enable the consortium to rise to the challenges of the times and to address California’s most pressing cancer-related problems and opportunities. These include costs of care, variability in reimbursement, challenges in research funding, inequities in access to care, disparities in outcomes and public health issues, matching developing drugs to multiple cancer subtypes and rare tumors, and harnessing the profusion of data to improve care and safety.

“This new UC Cancer Consortium represents a forward-looking partnership among leading academic cancer centers,” said the consortium’s inaugural chair, Alan Ashworth, PhD, Fellow of the Royal Society, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Each institution has contributed significant advances to cancer research and treatment. Together, we can better serve the people of California and make even greater contributions to the field of cancer.”

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.